Overcoming the cold Jerusalem rain, hundreds of families gathered last week at the Gutnik Family Simcha Hall to celebrate a birthday celebration for one of Jerusalem’s favorite charities – Pantry Packers.
With tables festively set with colorful balloons and birthday cakes at each place setting, the guests, all former volunteers at the dry food goods packaging facility, quickly warmed up to the festivities. While most fundraising dinners are upscale affairs held in absence of children, Pantry Packers made sure that all ages of the family were included in this event.
Pantry Packers, created and run by Rabbi Menachem Traxler, director of volunteering for Colel Chabad, first opened its doors 3 years ago. Now, 20,000 volunteers later, the facility is looking to expand its operating hours and volunteer experience so even more people can participate in ‘Tikun Olam Tourism’ as Traxler describes it. As Israel’s longest running social services organization, Colel Chabad has been providing for Israel’s neediest families since 1788.
“Pantry Packers is our way of opening the eyes of those visiting Jerusalem to the reality of tens of thousands of Israeli families who are struggling to put food on the table,” said Traxler. “Some families have made the experience of volunteering at Pantry Packers an annual one to keep the spirit of chessed strong within their household. We are so happy to be sharing this birthday celebration with those who have been part of our journey to help those in need and it was important that our celebration not just be another fundraising dinner but one that highlighted chessed for people of all ages.”
Guests decorated and packaged birthday cakes to be added to the weekly Shabbat food deliveries, to help spread the celebration even further. They were also treated to a demonstration with “Rabbi Pickle”, aka Mendy Margolin, where each family member learned how to and prepared their own dill pickles to take home with them.
A festive family friendly buffet kept guests both young and older happy and full and was followed by a master chef dessert tutorial with popular kosher chef and lifestyle guru, Jamie Geller, who also served as MC for the evening.
“It was truly an honor to be part of such a beautiful event, bringing together so many different people who are all part of the Pantry Packers family,” said Geller. “Tzedaka and charity should be a family experience, and Pantry Packers has proven itself as the perfect avenue to combine these two ideals.”
“As a family event, this evening was very important for me,” said Shira Katz, who attended the event with her family. “Usually we go to charity dinners where we as adults learn about the amazing work that charities do. This Pantry Packers event allowed our children to learn more and do more, and to celebrate what has been happening for the past three years. Our family has gone a number of times to Pantry Packers and each time we leave our children ask when we can go back again. Beyond being a lot of fun, I feel confident that my kids learned about what it is to give back and care for others.”
Event Produced by Tzvaim tourism & productions / Photos by Mendy Hechtman